Udi Glaser (28/04/2012)
They're neither in Hollywood, nor Israel's booming film industry. The story of four filmmakers who have chosen to make movie magic here.
His first documentary, Scent of Strawberries, is about his mother, Tamar Natanel, a biochemist at Tel Aviv University who, at the age of 62, decided to pursue an MA in Filmmaking. He documented her creating a short feature film about her brother, a navigator killed in an accident, as part of her studies.
“I love the walking towards the unknown in documentary making,” Natanel says, describing his attraction to the genre, “going into a situation where there’s potential and a challenge in every moment and deciding where the best story lies”. He learnt a lot from the director, Asher Tlalim, who was his mentor on the documentary course, and Scent of Strawberries won 2 prizes, including the best short documentary film category at the Kerry Film Festival in Ireland.
In Wooden Butterfly, his final student film, Natanel documented 2 luthiers, Haim Algranati and David Lipkin. “Like in Seinfeld, this movie is about nothing but in fact about everything,” he says, sharing the idea behind the film. “I’m following the creating of the instruments and their stories integrate into the instrument, as it’s being created, and then when it’s ready, the stories turn to music.”
After finishing his studies, Natanel was given an offer to document Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, who walked with his dog from Germany to London. In this movie, ‘Carrying the Light’, he worked with the well-known producer Michael Kuhn (a congregant of Wittenberg’s), and the distribution was done by Ruth Diskin. Today Natanel is working for a small production company, Goldin Films, and amongst other things is also working with an Iranian screenwriter on developing a film looking at the tension between Israel and Iran.
Likes the unknown in the documentary. Natanel
Her debut movie, My Kosher Shifts, won Iris Zaki (34) the top prize at the Open City London Documentary Festival in the ‘My Street’ category. In 2011, Zaki put a camera behind the reception desk at a Hassidic Jewish hotel, Croft Court Hotel, where she was working, exposing intimate yet quite amusing moments in the lives of the hotel’s guests. “The responses to the movie were amazing. People were really laughing,” tells Zaki about the festival screening, where she won a prize of £2000. “This is exactly the amount I spent on a new camera the previous month for the filming,” she reminisces.
In Israel she was a department manager at channel 24 and a producer in the first days of MTV Israel. About 3 years ago, she moved to London for her MA studies in documentary film at Brunel University. “It sounded so ridiculous. I loved it,” Zaki reveals about her part time job at the hotel as a student. “I am the complete opposite when it comes to my lifestyle. It’s not something I hid. You can see it in my eyes, because I lived a very wild and secular life in Tel Aviv... it was a sort of surreal to work there.”
“When my teachers heard where I worked, they got really excited,” Zaki reveals how the idea for the film started. “People get shiny eyes when I speak about the Hassids”. She says she also met the acclaimed filmmaker Mark Isaacs who loved the idea. One of his movies, Lift, was filmed in a lift during 2 months documenting a building’s residents, and it’s easy to see where Zaki got her inspiration.
London is ideal for the film world, according to her. “Here there is a healthy hunger for new creation and a very open mind, so you can always feel like the sky’s the limit, as opposed to cities like Tel Aviv where the limit is felt constantly. I think Israel is very cynical and sometimes even sort of looking down at Israelis. I feel that here the industry’s language is less infected. The Brits work differently, with more respect and tolerance... Documentary is considered very sexy here now; I even use it as a chat up line with men.”
Her next film is about her family, “about my difficulties with monogamy; tracing it back to my parents to see where it started and why.” She is also working on her postgraduate proposal for East London University, where Eyal Sivan and Prof Haim Bereshit teach.
"It sounded so ridiculous. I loved it." Zaki
Keren Ghitis (35) got into movies from a completely different area. After years of working for the community and human rights all over the world, she arrived to London for her MA studies in Anthropology, Sociology and Economics in developing countries, at Sussex University.
After this she went to work for Panos London, an organization promoting the voices of developing countries and raising awareness in the western world. “Every two months I travelled to a different place; mainly in Africa, and helped people document their stories about many different important subjects, including people living in poverty, conflict zones, AIDS, children’s sweatshops and women trafficking,” says Ghitis, who also gave them film workshops, teaching them how to film and document their own stories themselves.
The stories gave her ideas for movies and she wanted to express her creativity and her own voice. The first film, Jerusalem S.O.S., from 2008, follows the fascinating story of an Arab and an Orthodox Jew who volunteer as paramedics in the ‘United Hatzalah’ emergency services. “The film was broadcasted a few months ago on Al Jazeera English, they loved it and said that these are the kind of stories about the area nobody hears of,” she says about their choice to show her film. “I received very special responses, people wrote to me from Pakistan of all places saying they enjoyed it very much, and also from the Palestinian community in the States, who wanted to use the film for educational purposes”.
Apart from other documentaries, such as the unique film about the Sahrawi People, who was broadcasted as an item of the Israeli news show Roim Olam (“Seeing the World”), she is also interested in working on longer films and features. “It is fascinating to me to play with what is real and what is fiction, and even if it’s fictional, it will still be influenced by stories from my life and people I know.”
An enthusiastic response from Pakistan. Ghidis
Yoni (Jonathan) Bentovim (37) is mainly known in Israel as the bassist of the legendary band Ziknei Tzfat and the son of deceased actress Talya Shapira. But the world of film fascinated him more than that of music, and he arrived in London in the late ‘90s for his MA studies at London Film School. “I guess I needed some space and the wider streets, where you walk and no one knows you,” Bentovim explains of some of the reasons for his relocation. “I think it gave me creative freedom, that for some reason, the fact you walk down the streets and meet people and everything is so close, really stopped my creativity.”
At university he met his future wife, Emily Harris, with whom he founded the production company Indivision Films, where they both work as directors-producers creating documentaries, fiction and some that skirt the fine line between the two. They recently finished working on a short film by Etgar Keret, Pockets, which will be released soon. “There is something amazing in Keret’s stories,” says Bentovim. “I think they crossover to English perfectly... they are not limited to the Israeli way of thinking only.”
The collaboration started with the film Three Towers, which Keret wrote with Shira Geffen. The movie won awards all over the world, including at the important Raindance Film Festival. The judges, who also presented the awards, were from the top of the entertainment world. “Especially Lou Reed, who is some kind of god to me,” he reminisces. The movie is about a struggling elderly couple in Italy who one day give shelter to a tourist telling them in English about two airplanes crushing into two buildings in New York. After he leaves, the two, whose level of English is very poor, argue about what he actually meant.
“The industry here has suffered a lot in the past few years,” Bentovim says of the difficulty of finding funding for the films, “but since London has an international community, I worked with very interesting crews... there is a huge demand – if you have a relatively low budget, you can find extremely talented people that will be willing to work with you.”
Alongside his dedication to cinema, Bentovim hasn’t neglected music completely, and is even working on a new album with Ziknei Tzfat. “It’s not something that is important to any of us,” he says, “so it is just pure fun. No one is stressed and it will probably take us some time.”
Needed the space and the wider streets. Bentovim
Read this article in Hebrew
כל הנאמר בתגובות הוא בגדר דעות הגולשים בלבד ועל אחריותם. נא להשתמש בשפה נקייה ותרבותית. במידה ואתם נתקלים בתגובה לא מכובדת, אנא הודיעו לנו על כך בעמוד המשוב.
שלח תגובה לכתבה* אנא הגיבו באופן ענייני ולא פוגע, שיכבד את האתר ומבקריו.
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